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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 Dec 2018

Research article | 17 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

A novel approach to calibrating a photo-acoustic absorption spectrometer using polydisperse absorbing aerosol

Katie Foster, Rudra Pokhrel, Matthew Burkhart, and Shane Murphy Katie Foster et al.
  • Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, 82071, USA

Abstract. A new technique for calibrating photo-acoustic aerosol absorption spectrometers with multiple laser passes in the acoustic cavity (multi-pass PAS) has been developed utilizing polydisperse, highly-absorbing, aerosol. This is the first calibration technique for multi-pass PAS instruments that utilizes particles instead of reactive gases and does not require knowledge of the exact size or refractive index of the absorbing aerosol. In this new method, highly-absorbing materials are aerosolized into a polydisperse distribution and measured simultaneously with a multi-pass PAS and a cavity attenuated phase shift particulate matter single scattering albedo (CAPS PMSSA, Aerodyne Inc.) instrument. The CAPS PMSSA measures the bulk absorption coefficient through the subtraction of the scattering coefficient from the extinction coefficient. While this approach can have significant errors in ambient aerosol, the accuracy and precision of the CAPS PMSSA are high when the measured aerosol has a low SSA and particles are less than 300 nm in size where truncation errors are small. To confirm the precision and accuracy of this approach, a range of aerosol concentrations were sent to the multi-pass PAS and CAPS PMSSA instruments using three different absorbing substances: Aquadag, Regal Black, and Nigrosin. Six repetitions with each of the three substances produced stable calibrations, with the standard deviation of the measurements being less than 2 % at 660 nm and less than 5 % at 405 nm for all substances. Calibrations were also consistent across the different calibration substances (standard deviation of 2 % at 660 nm and 10 % at 405 nm) except for Nigrosin at 405 nm. The accuracy of the calibration approach is dependent on the single scattering albedo (SSA) of the calibration substance, but is roughly 6 % for the calibration substances used here, which all have an SSA near 0.4. This calibration technique is easily deployed to the field as it involves no toxic or reactive gases and it does not require generation of a monodisperse aerosol. Advantages to this particle-based calibration technique versus techniques based on ozone or nitrogen dioxide absorption include no reactive losses or impact from carrier gases, and the broad absorption characteristics of the particles which eliminate potentially significant errors in calibration with small errors in the peak wavelength of the laser light.

Katie Foster et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Katie Foster et al.
Katie Foster et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Optical properties of absorbing aerosol significantly impact global climate. Photoacoustic absorption spectrometers (PAS) have emerged as a popular technique for measuring aerosol absorption. There are no particle-based calibration methods for PAS instruments. We present a calibration approach utilizing polydisperse particles and a cavity attenuation phase shift instrument. This technique does not rely on specific substances with known refractive indices and is easily deployable in the field.
Optical properties of absorbing aerosol significantly impact global climate. Photoacoustic...